Episode #135 Transcript: Mystery Machine

Episode Number: 135
Episode Title: Mystery Machine (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
Support us: If you’d like to help us with our accessibility work and compensating Susan for her transcriptions, you can support the show in a myriad of ways!

Please contact us if you spot any errors.

Note: this transcript has been slightly edited to improve clarity.

Renay: Hi friends! I’m Renay!

Diana: I’m Diana.

KJ: And I’m KJ.

Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.

[music break]

Renay: Welcome back to round two of our Toby Daye Trio. That’s what I’m calling us.

Today we are going to talk about our good things; we’re gonna talk about some of the media we’ve been consuming; and we’re going to get into the second book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

I’m assuming some of us are gonna have opinions —

Diana: Us, have opinions? Never.

Renay: The Toby Daye segments are gonna have spoilers for all the books—not just the book we’re discussing—cause we’re discussing the whole series. If you haven’t read the series, you might want to skip that segment—and go read this series! Obviously. That’s the answer. It’s really good.

But first up, we’re going to talk about our good things. Diana, will you launch us off?

Diana: Sure.

As we’re recording this, a little more than a week ago, I got my first COVID shot. I was initially supposed to get it yesterday, but the county next door to us was having a COVID vaccine fair, and so I was able to get an appointment there and also able to bully two of my friends who hadn’t gotten their shots yet into also going. They were like, “Oh no, we’ll look into it! We’ll look into making an appointment!” Finally I was like, “Look, here is the link. This is the time we’re all gonna go together, we’re all gonna drive together, we’re all gonna get our first shots, because I really want to have board game nights again.”

I got my first shot. I’m very excited. I fortunately did not have that bad of a reaction. I just had a sore arm for about thirty-six hours. I have my next shot scheduled. I am really looking forward to the fact that by early June I will be fully vaccinated and I can hang out with my friends who are also vaccinated without masks.

Renay: I love a good vaccine story. KJ, what about you? What’s your one good thing?

KJ: My one good thing is also similarly vaccine connected. I’m coming to you from the land of the fully vaccinated. I got my second vaccine on April 7th, which means I am well past the two week deadline and I have been fully vaccinated for a week and a half. Although, not too much about my life has changed yet, because the people I’ve mostly been hanging out with will not all be fully vaccinated until next weekend.

I got a haircut and it was very exciting. Many of us have been rocking the COVID hair for a while now. The fact that it was long didn’t bother me too much, but the fact that the color was all faded out and the fact that my ends were a mess was really starting to wear down on me. It’s very nice to have it all cleaned up, and I look more like myself, and it’s very exciting. I am here to tell you that even though life is not a hundred percent back to normal, being fully vaccinated is a huge relief and I feel like I can—not live my life a hundred percent, but that’s okay, it’s definitely a better place to me. Get vaccinated if you haven’t! Highly recommend.

Renay: I am also fully vaccinated! I was fully vaccinated as of April 22! Since that vaccination, things haven’t gone back to normal, but I did go to a county party meeting. We all had masks and there were two points of ventilation.

I am constantly harping on people who, in my offline life, who are like, “I’m gonna hang out here!” I’m like, “Does it have two points of ventilation?” They’re like, “What are you talking about, we’re gonna be six feet apart!” I’m like, “That doesn’t matter, it’s an aerosol! It’s in the air!”

I’m very happy that you are vaccinated. I’m very happy that Diana’s on her way to being vaccinated, and maybe this means! One day! We’ll all be able to see each other again at a convention! I miss my pals!

Well, my good thing is after seven or eight years, I have revived my personal website. My personal website is echthroi.org. Most people are going to be like, “How the hell do you spell that?” Understandable. E-C-H-T-H-R-O-I dot org.

Echthroi.org; it’s a greek word. I first encountered it in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door, my favorite book by her. I’ve just been sitting on it. It’s been a placeholder for a long time, but I finally revived it and installed WordPress. I’ve been moving my political posts—my letters to the editor that I write, my city council agenda recaps. I’m hoping that it will become like a nice place to just collect all my stuff, that’s not on a third-party service, cause I’m a little hesitant about third party services now because of what happened with Substack. Just like, “Um, maybe I should own the servers.” Or in this case, rent this service from a company, with money.

Now all my writing will be contained on my website. It’s nice to have the option there, and it makes me very happy to have this space back and looking nice. I have a lot of fond memories of all the web design I used to do. I’m way out of practice now, though. I did not design my websit; I’m using a theme. If you happen to stop by, like, “Wow, this looks nice!” that’s not me, I’m just borrowing it. The writing is me.

KJ: I signed up for Substack because I was thinking of it as a possible home for a project. I obviously am not doing that project on Substack anymore. I’m still considering the best options for it. But I’m still on their mailing list. I need to just shut down that account so I stop getting their mailing list stuff. But some of the targeted communications about what’s going on over there have been interesting to spy on. That’s the only reason I haven’t deleted it, honestly. I don’t know if it’s worth it for that purpose, because most of the stuff I get is really chirpy marketing, “Look at all the great writers on our service!” None of the controversial ones, by the way. They never highlight those. It’s very interesting.

Renay: Wow, KJ right now is like the physical embodiment of that Marie Kondo gif where she’s like, “I love mess.”

All: [laugh]

Renay: Okay, space bees: we would like to hear what good things that you have been up to or have been experiencing. If you have vaccine stories, obviously I want to hear them, thank you. I love a good vaccine story. I’m ready to hear all about your vaccine experience.

[music break]

Renay: Next up, we’re going to talk about the media we have been consuming recently. KJ, what are your items?

KJ: One thing that I’ve done recently is that I finally got around to watching the Pixar movie Soul. For some reason my spouse had just now heard about it, and he saw that it was well-rated and that it had won Academy Awards and he likes Pixar movies and we have Disney+ now, so he’s like, “Hey, let’s watch it!” and we did. It is very cute. The music is great.

If anyone is, by some amazing thing, living under a rock and hasn’t heard of it, it’s the story of a jazz musician played by Jamie Foxx, who, on the verge of getting his big break, has an accident and is on the verge of death. His soul goes to the afterlife and then ends up in a different sort of space—sort of a pre-life, where souls are preparing to come down into human bodies and have lives. He meets a reluctant soul played by Tina Fey and they have adventures. I don’t wanna go too much into it, actually, cause I didn’t know a lot more than that and there were some delightful surprises that I enjoyed. There were some times where I didn’t see where it was going. It’s sort of a buddy comedy between Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, and it’s a lot of fun and it’s very sweet.

I’m not usually a jazz person, but the jazz music is by Jon Batiste of the Late Night With Stephen Colbert. Jamie Foxx’s character is a piano player, and Jon Batiste plays the piano when he’s playing the piano and it’s really amazing. And there’s also some really nice stuff about artists and inspiration and the meaning of music to people who love it. It was just really a heart-warming and sweet way of spending a few hours. The animation of course is by Pixar, so it’s beautiful. It’s a little bit reminiscent of Inside Out, and Inside Out is my very favorite Pixar movie so that’s pretty high praise.

The other one I want to mention is the book I finished most recently. It’s A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine. A Memory Called Empire was my favorite book of 2019, and I was very happy when it won the Hugo for Best Novel. I was quite eager to read the sequel that continues the adventures of Mahit and Three Seagrass. It’s amazing. It’s just as good as the first one.

It goes bigger; we’re not just in Mahit’s head, we get to see the perspectives of Three Seagrass, the imperial heir Six Antidote, and then also a fleet captain called Nine Hibiscus. You get to see a number of perspectives as a war with some aliens is encroaching. There’s a lot of twisty politics; there’s a lot of complicated relationship dynamics.

It does get away from the city a little bit, which was one of the things I loved about A Memory Called Empire. It was so set in the city, and entrenched in the city as a setting. The city was a character in the story. That’s a lot less true this book, because only Six Antidote is in the city. Everyone else is off having other adventures.

It’s very good. I loved the conclusion. I was not expecting where it was gonna go there. I understand it’s a duology which means the story’s over and that makes me a little sad, but I also enjoyed where it wrapped up. If you liked the first book I definitely recommend this one. If you haven’t read either book, I would definitely recommend you check them out.

Renay: Diana, what about you? What have you been into?

Diana: Media stuff that I have been enjoying! Last week I was building bookshelves and I wanted to listen to something that I hadn’t heard before but I didn’t think would require too much brain power so I didn’t want to do an audiobook.

I finally started listening to the Slow Burn podcast from Slate, and I ended up binging it. I went through the first two seasons: so the seasons about the Richard Nixon impeachment, and then the Clinton impeachment, and now I’m in season three, which is about Biggie Smalls/Tupac Shakur feud and it’s really interesting.

I really enjoy the fact that they take a really wide lens approach to talking about these things. For example, with the Nixon impeachment one, they start off talking about this woman, Martha Mitchell, who was the wife of then-Attorney General John Mitchell and talking about the role that she played in the Watergate story and how she was essentially kidnapped and forcibly drugged to try and keep her from talking about the connection between one of the Watergate burglars and her husband. It was just really, really interesting and I really enjoyed it. I also ended up watching the Epix docuseries that was inspired by the first season of Slow Burn. It was very similar to the podcast, but they did have some new components to it. For example, one of the things that they do in the TV series that they don’t do in the podcast is talk to one of the Cuban exiles who was involved in the burglary. It was very, very interesting.

If you like history, if you want kind of a wide lens look at some things—I kind of remember the Clinton impeachment, but I was still fairly young when it happened. I don’t really have much memory of it, so—again, I highly recommend it. Very, very good.

The other thing: I finished the new Murderbot novella, Fugitive Telemetry. It was very good. I still haven’t read Network Effect but this book takes place between Exit Strategy and Network Effect so I wasn’t worried about being spoiled. It combines two of my loves: Murderbot and murder mysteries. It’s dealing with Murderbot having to adjust to being on Preservation Station, and trying to find its place there, and it’s very good. I loved it a lot. Murderbot is one of my favorite fictional characters because it’s very relatable. If you like Murderbot, I highly recommend picking up Fugitive Telemetry, it is very, very good. Your turn, Renay.

Renay: Well, we are officially in BTS comeback season. They have a new single coming out in May called Butter. If you follow me on Twitter: you’re welcome for all the Butter fanart that you will get and all the butter puns you will receive.

Part of this comeback is us getting extremely excited because Namjoon, who is the leader of BTS, did a collaboration with eAeon, which is one of his favorite artists. eAeon and Namjoon also collaborated on a song on Namjoon’s mixtape, which is called mono., and this song that eAeon released is called Don’t. The music video for the song—and, I would argue, kind of the song itself once you read the lyrics—has a very Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vibe to it. As per usual, Namjoon’s verse is amazing.

The album itself, that the song is on, is called Fragile. I hadn’t actually listened to this artist much, but after listening to the song with Namjoon, I went to listen to his whole album on Spotify and I’m like, “This is amazing! I’m going to buy it!” and I bought his album. If you’re into music, but you don’t care if you don’t understand the lyrics, then you might wanna check this out. It’s very atmospheric and bittersweet. It’s very, very good.

The second thing that I have been into, so much so that I’ve incepted my partner into downloading it as well, is a game called Rush Royale. It is a tower defense game. I just really, really love a good tower defense game. They’re my favorite. I have played all the Kingdom Rush games multiple times, and so this one is a little different. Rush Royale is a tower defense game that is also a card game. You have a deck of cards with different characters, and you can level up the cards, but when you play, you basically deal yourself cards with points that you get for destroying enemies. You can upgrade your cards, but it’s all randomized. When you’re dropping cards from your deck you don’t know what you’re gonna get, and when you’re merging cards you don’t know what it’s going to merge into. It’s very fun. I love it so much. When Zach downloaded it, I have learned that when your friends are online, you can play against them—you can play in either the competitive mode or you can play in the co-op mode to help each other. I will sit around and listen to audiobooks and play this game on silent. It’s the greatest, most relaxing thing ever.

You can’t really interact with the other players that you’re playing with in ways that are abusive. you have pre-selected interactions, so you can say, “good luck” and “good game” or “thanks” or “oops” and you have little emoticons you can use. There’s not a big risk of harassment, which is good when we consider the gaming community itself. Highly recommend this game. If you decide to play, please let me know your username, so we can be friends.

Space bees, although I ask you all the time to tell what you’re into, and you all sometimes do but most of the time you don’t! Why don’t you love me!? This is a guilt trip, that’s exactly right, it’s a guilt trip. I still wanna know what you’re into.

[music break]

Renay: A Local Habitation is book two in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. In A Local Habitation, Toby, along with a brand-new sidekick, go on a field trip to the county of Tamed Lightning and discover shenanigans.

When I first read this series I actually liked this book a whole lot, but coming back to it later I’m like, “I can see why some people might be like ‘Eh’ about this book and its plot.” The reason that I’m so surprised now that I liked it back then: it’s basically a locked room mystery and I don’t really like locked room mystery in general. Although apparently that might be changing? Maybe I’m developing a love of locked room mysteries.

KJ: You know, when we talked about this last time I mentioned this was my least favorite book of the series, but I liked it better than I remembered. That’s interesting contrast, that you like it less and I like it more. Maybe we’ve converged; I dunno.

Diana: Yeah, and I’m still about the same, where it’s just…fine. But a part of the reason I don’t like it is when I first read it is when I first read it I was also reading a lot of cozy mysteries, and mystery series in general. I think as a mystery series it doesn’t really—like as a mystery it doesn’t necessarily work for me in a way that’s difficult for me to describe. I think it’s mostly—there’s a lot of people kind of holding the idiot ball in a way where it doesn’t happen in later books in the series, which was frustrating for me, because that is one of my least favorite tropes of all time.

With a good mystery is always going to be—there should be clues that point you to it, and rereading this book I didn’t really see the clues that were pointing towards the final culprit in a way that I like mystery books to do so.

KJ: I totally agree with all that. And I was also looking for clues: “Okay, can we see who did it? Do we see who the final mystery is?” I found myself doubting my memory of who the culprit was, because it’s not set up. You don’t see the clues leading toward it.

The thing that I remember not liking about this book is I had this memory that Toby should have figured out what’s going on long before she actually did, but on reflection the only reason I feel that way—with one exception—the only reason I feel that way is because everybody was holding back so much information from her that of course she didn’t know what’s going on. There’s no way she could have figured it out, because everyone was lying to her and hiding so much from her. Because it’s a first person story we only know what Toby knows, so of course we don’t know what’s going on either and we’re getting conflicting information. That’s why it feels like it comes out of nowhere. The resolution comes out of nowhere for us because it comes out of nowhere for Toby.

I mean, it’s possible to hide clues and let the reader be a step ahead of the protagonist in first person, even in really close third person. But again, this is only one of her first novels. It just wasn’t quite there yet.

The one thing that I will say that still doesn’t hold up for me in terms of, “Toby should have figured this out earlier!” was what was going on with Alex and Terrie. I realized what was happening with that practically the second Terrie was introduced. If Toby is a private detective who is used to looking for patterns and seeing things, it is completely unbelievable to me that she wouldn’t have at least guessed that Alex and Terrie were the same person.

Diana: That was really frustrating, and that’s kind of what I meant by characters holding the idiot ball. I think it was also really frustrating to me that whenever Toby voiced suspicions about Alex or Terrie, no one told her what going on. I get it that they’re paranoid and that they’re worried about spies, but it felt like the characters were being super secretive for no good reason, especially once more people started dying.

Renay: In a lot of ways this is set up as a mystery, but I wonder about the intention of it being a mystery. Because the point about Toby not knowing things, and characters not being honest with her so she can’t figure things out, really makes me go, “Huh, so maybe this is not meant to be like a mystery! maybe it’s supposed to be something else even though it has the structure of a mystery.”

Mysteries have a very specific way that they’re outlined and how they work. This book was missing a lot of those touchstones—like the clues thing. Even as a new author, it doesn’t feel like that’s the kind of oversight you make when you’re writing a mystery, especially if you are extremely well-read and have been reading books a long time. After I finished this I’m like, “Well, I’ve been judging it as a mystery this whole time, but what if it’s not a mystery? What if it’s just a thriller about how people are liars and you can’t trust anybody?”

Diana: Well, I don’t even know if it would work for me as a thriller, because I don’t read a lot of thrillers. I tend to be a mystery person, but for me there didn’t seem to be that kind of tension that I normally associate with thrillers. It’s a little hard to describe, but I always feel that with thrillers there’s the tension between what’s happening and what the character doesn’t know, and in this case it felt the author—Seanan McGuire in this case—was really enforcing what the character didn’t know in a way that didn’t feel organic. It felt like it was forced onto the narrative.

Renay: My first time through this book, I remember being super wigged out about Alex and the way that Toby reacts to him immediately? I am not that clever because I didn’t figure out that Alex and Terrie were the same person until the book told me. I thought about it, after I finished, and I was just like, “Why didn’t they reveal this sooner? Why did it have to wait till the end of the book? Why was it necessary to have that reveal so late in the game?”

It felt structured weirdly. Like it was meant to be a red herring, and so you think, “Oh wow, finally we’re gonna gonna get some answers!” but it’s not actually an answer to the actual mystery itself. I’m not sure it was in the right place in the book, but I’m also not the author and I don’t know the intentions for that specific thing. I’m thinking back to the other books and I’m not sure we ever hear about that character or that race of faerie?

Diana: They do explain within this book about that specific race; that they’re very, very rare and that they don’t really exist much in faerie anymore. The whole Alex/Terrie thing does come up in the bonus novella after The Brightest Fell…? Yeah, The Brightest Fell, so spoiler:

Where April and Li Qin and Toby figure out how to bring people back.

KJ: Why is Li Qin never even mentioned in this book? That’s so strange to me.

Diana: With this, and it plays into a point I think you wanted to bring up, KJ, is Jan being very secretive. I can see her being very secretive about her partner especially. She’s being very paranoid about what’s going on and given how many secrets and how closed-mouthed a lot of the people at Tamed Lightning are, I can see that being the case, and so that’s kind of I guess a Watsonian…?

KJ: Watsonian is in-story logic from the point of view of the characters. Doylist is outside the story.

Diana: Okay, so for me that’s the Watsonian view of that: people are being paranoid and tight-lipped. They aren’t gonna be talking about anything extraneous. Toby doesn’t really interact with Tamed Lightning much until book six, after that? So she doesn’t really go back and talk to April and Elliot and things like that because she probably feels really guilty about what happened.

KJ: I buy that mostly, except not with April. The fact that April wouldn’t even mention in passing having a second mother is very strange to me, because April is not bound by the same strictures as everyone else.

Renay: That’s also why it falls apart for me, too, is because at the very end of the book, we see Toby go back for the funeral. She talks to April and she sees everybody, but this person is not there, as far as I can tell. I was like, “Hm. I feel like we just added a character for convenience, later on!” which is fine! You can do that! You’re allowed to do that! If you are writing a series, and you wanna retcon the past, you’re allowed. If dudes can do it, Seanan McGuire can do it.

KJ: I think that Seanan McGuire has clearly plotted out a lot of stuff in advance, but I don’t fault her for feeling the need to retcon in new characters or make changes to existing character backstories or whatever. A series this long that kind of stuff is inevitable; things you didn’t see at the beginning come clear to you later. And maybe it’s not even a retcon, maybe it just slides in even if you didn’t think of it before. So yeah, absolutely.

Renay: Given the fact of how well-layered the series is, I’m willing to give it a pass. I’m like, “Whatever! Shrug!” Look at how everything else lays together.

Diana: Speaking of things laying together—

Diana and KJ: [laughs]

Diana: I’m sorry! You teed it up so well, Renay!

—and also kind of the changes in the narrative of what’s plotted out. I know Seanan McGuire has talked about the fact that it took her until I think book four to realize that Toby and Tybalt was the long-term ship, and not Toby/Connor, or potentially Toby/Walter, because I think he shows up in book four as well and she had mentioned that he was a potential love interest for Toby. It’s so funny reading this book and being like, “Your subconscious was telling you something.”

It opens up with Tybalt—Toby just had a girls night out with her friends and she’s walking home drunk, and Tybalt shows up and he takes her home, and gives her his leather jacket, and makes sure that she’s safe, and takes a message for her. Then he comes to help her and her head is laying on his lap at one point. Your subconscious was telling you that Toby/Tybalt was meant to happen instead of Toby/Connor.

KJ: Yeah, it’s hard to miss.

Renay: In this book we see the start of the Toby/Connor relationship. I didn’t remember that Connor and Toby basically acted on their feelings before Connor was no longer married.

Diana: My feelings about Connor are the same in the first book. It’s fine, but I am glad that he wasn’t the long-term love interest because he just…he’s fine.

KJ: It’s funny, because I’m not usually into the, “I hate you means I love you” kind of dramatic relationship, which is where I saw Toby and Tybalt as possibly being when I was first reading this book. Obviously, it doesn’t stay there. It becomes a much more stable and solid relationship later.

I saw that sort of sexual tension but not liking each other very much dynamic with Toby and Tybalt, whereas Connor and Toby have this—they have a history and they genuinely care about each other and it’s much warm as opposed to hot. Generally I find that a better foundation for a fictional relationship. I actually was rooting for Toby and Connor to a certain extent. Infidelity isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for me. I know it is for other people. I think I probably had a different perspective on that relationship.

Renay: I’m not sure that you can judge infidelity in the same way. It depends on the context.

Diana: Yeah, and in this context it was pretty well established that Connor and Raysel were a diplomatic marriage; that there wasn’t really any like attachment there. I know with fae it’s like different in terms of age but also Raysel’s in her early twenties, Connor is not. I got the feeling that Connor might have known her when she was little, which kind of weirds me out in a way.

Renay: Raysel doesn’t seem like a very stable person. We don’t really get that yet, that hasn’t really come up, but just the way that Toby talks about her, she doesn’t seem very stable.

Diana: I have a lot of thoughts about the situation that led to Connor marrying Raysel and Luna’s involvement in that, and Luna’s eventual character development—that we will Get To in later books in this series!

One thing that rereading this I found interesting that I hadn’t really remembered was at various points throughout the book, in Toby’s narration, she talks about January as a hero of faerie and like, “this is how a hero would be,” and it’s really interesting for me because one of the plot points of the series is that Toby become a hero, in the both positive and also the consequences that she ends up facing. It was just interesting to me that Toby’s conception of what a fae hero is, is someone like January, someone like Sylvester, and not necessarily someone like herself. So it’s just like a really interesting thing for me to read knowing what comes up in the series.

KJ: I wish January hadn’t died for good so early. Well, what we think is at this point for good, so early in the series, because I think she’s very interesting and I would have liked to see more of her. The sort of techno-faerie thing? I thought that was a really neat concept. I wish there had been more opportunity for that.

Renay: One thing that I did not like about this book was the ending of it and how it felt very much like, “I don’t know if I’m gonna get to write a third book!” Her other books have summaries like this, but they didn’t feel quite as summary. Am I the only one who felt that way with the end of this book?

Diana: It was interesting, cause this end, it definitely feels more melancholy than a lot of the other endings. I would say except for maybe The Brightest Fell—I think The Brightest Fell has one of the more melancholy bleak endings. But I think with some of the other books, even if the narrative didn’t always end the way Toby was anticipating, there always seemed to be a more hopeful edge to it. Or at least a more positive edge. In this book, the ending is fully melancholy. It is the cycle that faerie is in. We don’t know if January was right about faerie dying, we’re left with this funeral, and I think it just kind of stands out especially for so early in the series.

Renay: Well, on the other hand, I find Seanan McGuire to be a very cinematic writer? There are two specific scenes I’m thinking of.

The first one is when Toby and Quentin are returning to Tamed Lightning and the portcullis gate tries to kill them, and takes out Toby’s car. That was just like a very excellent scene. The second scene is when Toby starts off a story beat that will become pretty regular, when she summons the night-haunts. I just find her writing very excellent when she’s doing these very dramatic, emotional and/or action scenes. I think she’s very good at them. This is just me putting out into the universe that somebody in Hollywood could absolutely adapt this series. It would work great on a streaming service! Give me nineteen seasons! Thank you.

Diana: I don’t know if the option is still active, but John Rogers’ production company at one point had the series optioned.

Renay: Can we do a writing campaign to John Rogers?

KJ: [laughs]

Diana: Look, I think John Rogers would do it in a heartbeat, it’s just someone trying to buy it, because he has been pretty vocal about the fact that with streaming, you’re most likely gonna have three seasons and that’s it. That’s one of his things when he’s talking about things to consider as a TV writer with streaming—is three seasons.

KJ: I don’t think it was just optioned, I think was actively in development, but I don’t know how far it got, and I haven’t heard anything about it in a while.

Renay: But yeah I really do think that Seanan McGuire is very, very good and she just continues getting better when it comes to scenes like that. I’m thinking about a scene that comes later, Toby riding a mermaid through San Francisco? There’s some kind of scene later on like that.

Diana: That’s a great scene.

Renay: The second scene that was super effective was the one where Toby summons the night-haunts, which I found extremely fascinating, because for some reason I thought that happened much, much later in the series.

Diana: There are a couple of things about that scene, that looking back on, that are just super significant. One is Evening is not there.

KJ: That’s true! I didn’t even notice that!

Diana: They specifically name Devin and Ross and Dare as people who are in the night-haunts, but they don’t mention Evening, which, knowing what comes next, it’s like, “Oh my god, how did I not see that the first time around!?” The second part is where Toby is talking with the night-haunt that is wearing Dare’s face. That night-haunt is like, “When you die, I will wear your face,” and it’s like, “No, you’re gonna be wearing her face in the next book! You’re gonna be May!”

KJ: That one I noticed. The fact that Evening was not among them I didn’t notice. Nobody that they mentioned died before Evening supposedly died. That would have been an even bigger tell, that makes it more subtle, because who knows! Maybe they just cycle, maybe enough people died and they cycled through. But in retrospect, yeah, you’re right, that’s that’s very good sneaky hint.

Renay: But the night-haunts also make it clear. They’re like “There’s not so many faerie die that we can handle it.” I didn’t notice it either. Diana’s a wizard!

Diana: I will say that I saw someone talking about it. When Seanan McGuire was doing her recent Toby summary on Twitter and she was saying that someone called one of the big twists because bracket [name] wasn’t in [scene]. It was in my mind and looking for it.

Renay: Still, when the narrative itself is telling you, like wow. What other clues have I missed in this book?

Diana: I will say, I was flipping through Late Eclipses and there are a lot of clues pretty early on in about August, Simon, and Amadine in one scene! But speaking of August, there’s a scene at the very end where Toby and Quentin are at the funeral. Toby thinks that she sees her mother. I’m wondering if that was August.

KJ: I mean August is pretty well established that she’s lost, right, that she’s been missing for a long time?

Diana: But Toby doesn’t see the face. Yeah, “Letting my eyes drift across the crowd I froze, my stomach dropping as I saw a flash of silver blonde hair, attached to a willowy woman in a tattered green and brown dress. Mom?”

Knowing what I know now about the series, we just get the description of a woman with the right hair and a dress, and it’s tattered, so for me I’m wondering if that was a glimpse of August while she was lost.

KJ: Maybe!

Diana: And I can’t remember if it’s brought up again in Brightest Fell.

KJ: We’ll have to look for it.

Diana: The Torquills are just a really messed up family.

KJ: And it just gets worse and worse.

One thing that I really did enjoy a lot about this book is the beginning of Toby’s relationship with Quentin. That’s not really a thing in the first book. He’s there, he’s around, but he’s not part of the action the way he is in other books. This is really the book where Quentin becomes the first in Toby’s flock of teenagers and it’s really great. I love their relationship so much.

Renay: My favorite part between Toby and Quentin is when Toby makes him lock himself in the room and gives him a password that is, “Do your homework.”

All: [laughs]

Diana: I love that found family dynamic between her and Quentin and how they kind of adopt each other.

KJ: We don’t know who Quentin really is yet at this point, of course. Seeing the very hints of that: the fact that he’s clearly well court-trained, but also seems to already have developed a sense of responsibility towards people, which is an important thing in a good king. And it sounds like, from what we know of his father, it sounds like he’s a good king. We see the makings of a good king in Quentin very early on without even knowing who he is.

Renay: I do really enjoy Quentin and Toby together, both as mentor and squire—which he will become soon—and as friends. And I actually think I like the friends dynamic better, which often we don’t necessarily get because they’re always on missions and stuff, but I think we see it more later as the series develops.

Diana: The first book we talked about how much Toby lost, and this book I think is the first where she starts gaining the found family that she ends up relying on and that ends up being her support network. Tybalt and Connor are at this point, there, but I think the development of her relationship with Quentin in this book is way more important.

KJ: And also: the hint that she’s becoming friends with Luidaeg also.

Renay: So in this book we see Gordon and Quentin butting heads a lot, because Gordon is super unhappy with purebloods. That’s the beginning of a through line in the series, where you can see the changelings be very bitter and unhappy about how they’re being treated by faerie. In the context of the reason that they doing the work at Tamed Lightning to begin with, to save faerie, I thought it was very interesting to see these people be like, “Oh faerie is dying so we need to save it,” and the person working so hard to do that is a changeling who wants to create more equality and thinks that this is the way that it can be done. Spoiler: I don’t think that it would work, because if you want to save faerie you have to save all the parts of it, and part of it is that it’s extremely broken and bigoted. You can’t just port it over to a new reality and it’ll be magically better, you have to do the work to fix it. Gordon doesn’t come back.

Diana: She is gone for good. Like they mention the night-haunts coming.

Renay: Even though Gordon doesn’t come back as a character, we still see that same thing happen again and again with changelings being bitter and angry—validly angry, obviously! We also see some of it from Toby, who is a little more resigned to it, but part of that comes from Toby having some privilege as a knight, and so I thought that was an interesting way to introduce that idea that we’re gonna see pop-up over and over in the series.

Diana: One thing I think that’s gonna come into play as the series moves towards its endgame, is that Toby has the ability to change the balance of someone’s blood to either make someone fully human or make someone fully fae. If someone is a mixture of two different fae lineages, to remove one lineage. But she does not want to get rid of her human components. So one thing I think might come into play is her potentially redefining the role of a changeling in faerie, as the long-term thing. I don’t know how exactly it would work, but talking with you two and just have thinking about the books and what Toby starts to discover about herself, I’m wondering if that’s one of the themes that’s gonna start getting more play in later books.

KJ: Yeah, could be!

Renay: KJ, how many space bees would you give A Local Habitation?

KJ: I would give it three space bees and a jar of honey. I have obviously some issues with it, but it’s another solid entry as the series gets going, and I liked some things about it very much, and especially the seeds of what’s to come.

Renay: Diana?

Diana: I would rate it lower at three space bees, because I think my annoyances with the structure and the passing of the idiot ball weigh heavier on me, because like I said those are tropes that I particularly dislike.

Renay: I would give it three space bees and a jar of honey as well! I still think that this is a pretty solid book. I just don’t know if you would read it if you want a locked room mystery. But you should still read it, because you’re definitely reading this series with us, right?

We will return to discuss the next book, which if you’re reading along with us, is An Artificial Night.

Diana: Where shit gets real!

Renay: I’m very excited about this book, because this is the book that almost made me quit the series. I’m interested to revisit it again.

KJ: This was basically the book that cemented in me that I was gonna keep reading this series.

Diana: Yeah, same.

Renay: I remember when I was reading the series I came to you like, “What the FUCK!” so it’s gonna be very interesting to revisit this book in particular.

KJ: I feel like this is the book where she leveled up. Both Toby and Seanan McGuire.

[music break]

Renay: Okay y’all, where can we find you online? KJ!

KJ: I can be found primarily on Twitter at @IAmKJ, or on Dreamwidth at owlmoose.

Renay: Diana!

Diana: You can find me mostly on Twitter, partially on Youtube, at BookishDi.

Renay: Space bees, thank you for listening to the show. Thanks so much to both of you, KJ and Diana, for coming on the podcast to talk about Toby Daye with me. Our music is by Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games, our show art is by Ira, and our transcripts are by Susan. This episode was made possible by our space bees in the patreon hive. You can listen to our show on fangirlhappyhour.com. Remember to drink some water, wear a mask, get vaccinated, and take care of each other.

[music break]

Diana: Hi buddy, are you trying—you know that I’m on a video call? My cat just crashed, because he is a terrible child who knows I’m on a call and is like, “I must get attention.” This is a podcast, you all can’t see him, but he is very cute.


Diana: Toby goes on a field trip to Silicon Valley and mayhem ensues.

KJ: Yeah, I dunno. Fremont is not really Silicon Valley, but I guess close enough.

Diana: It’s Silicon Valley in my heart.

Renay: KJ’s gonna have opinions about the geography, she’s gonna be like, “BUT ACTUALLY”

KJ: I have many geography quibbles with this series honestly, but I try not to get into them. Although I will say that I notice it a lot more reading Rosemary and Rue than I remember, that the geography of this is somewhat incomprehensible.


Renay: Okay yeah, I’m gonna do a little intro, maybe if I can read past my microphone. Wow, this is not—I did not plan this setup very well. Geez.


Renay: Listen, if somebody’s looking for the next Supernatural, I’ve got you covered.

KJ: [laughs]

Renay: It’s called October Daye, it’s by Seanan McGuire. Do you want fifteen seasons of something awesome? Well guess what, I’ve got a series for you.

Diana: The thing is I don’t want it on the CW. I want it far away from the CW.

Diana and KJ: [laughs]

Renay: Not necessarily on the CW, but the length of Supernatural. If Supernatural can run for eight zillion years, so can October Daye.

KJ: [laughs] Yes.


Renay: I guess it wasn’t that important if I can’t remember it three seconds later.

KJ: [laughs]

[beep] [beep]